photos of stack of gold bars

Bloomberg study

The remarkable post-World War II stability is coming to an end

The only certainty in a world being turned upside down, in fact, is uncertainty

We would like to bring to your attention the results of an intriguing study posted at Bloomberg under the title, An Economist’s Guide to the World in 2050. In it, economists Tom Orlik and Bjorn van Roye offer a close look at the ongoing transition of wealth and power from West to East and assess what it might mean for the United States and American investors. Their statistical study maps “some of the key geographic and political shifts in store for the world economy” in the years to come. “The results,” they say, “suggest that a remarkable period of stability, stretching from the end of World War II through to the early 21st century, is coming to an end.” We would add that just as wealth and power have moved West to East, so has a large portion of the world’s physical gold, particularly since the beginnings of the global financial crisis in 2008. (Please see chart below on Chinese gold accumulation.)

Orlik and van Roye begin with a question: “Who won the Cold War?” And answer immediately: “Maybe China.” They say that rather than being at the end of history as some thought following the end of the Cold War, we are really nearer the beginning. The world, they say, “is in the midst of a messy transition as the balance of economic and political power shifts from West to East, from free markets to the state and from democracies to authoritarianism and populism. … The transition is already upending global politics, economics, and markets.”

We recommend spending a few minutes reading this article. If you come away, as we did, with the impression that the study’s findings serve as a wake-up call, then you might want to make certain that your portfolio is sufficiently hedged to weather the possible uncertainties ahead. The only certainty in a world being turned upside down, in fact, is uncertainty.  As we have been so rudely reminded over the course of the past year, we are all being carried on the long wave of history – destination unknown. 

overlay line and bar chart showing China's accumulation of gold since 1980
Chart courtesy of GoldChartsRUs • • • Click to enlarge

Tom Orlik is the chief economist at Bloomberg Economics. Bjorn van Roye is the Senior Global Economist at Bloomberg.


This article appeared in the December edition of our newsletter. If you would like to be included in our monthly mailings, please enter your email address in the form below.

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